On Friday, the Minnesota Twins announced the signing of veteran reliever Matt Belisle to a one-year contract worth $2.05 million. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Belisle, slugger Byung Ho Park was designated for assignment.
When a player is DFA'd, the team has seven days to trade him, release him, or place him on waivers. It used to be 10 days, but the new collective bargaining agreement shortened it to seven days. Needless to say, a DFA usually means the organization is getting rid of a player.
That is not necessarily true in Park's case. Odds are pretty good he will remain with the Twins as a player not on the 40-man roster because he'll clear waivers at some point in the next seven days.
The reason? Money. There is still three years and $9.25 million left on Park's contract.
Any team that claims Park on waivers would assume the remainder of his contract, and that's just not going to happen. Even if a club wants a right-handed power bat, they'd sign the more proven Chris Carter or Mike Napoli at a fraction of what the Twins still owe Park. I suppose a trade is possible with the Twins eating a bunch of money, but it seems like a long shot.
Keep in mind Park is already 30 years old, and he's coming off a season in which he hit .191/.275/.409 with 12 homers in 244 plate appearances with the Twins, plus .224/.297/.526 with 10 home runs in another 128 plate appearances in Triple-A. He struck out in 30.1 percent of his total plate appearances. That is not good. Contact was a big problem.
Furthermore, Park's season ended in late August due to a wrist injury that required surgery. So we're talking about a 30-year-old player with no track record of success in MLB who's coming off a wrist injury and has $9.25 million left on his deal. He's not exactly a hot waiver commodity.
In all likelihood, this is how things will play out:
- Park will clear waivers and remain in the organization as a non-40-man roster player.
- He'll come to spring training as a non-roster invitee, then begin the season in Triple-A.
- If he has success in Triple-A, the Twins will re-add him to the 40-man roster and call him up.
For what it's worth, Travis Sawchik of FanGraphs recently wrote there is still hope for Park the MLB level. Although he hit below the Mendoza line and struck out a bunch with the Twins last year, some of his Statcast numbers put him among the game's elite power hitters. There's still time for him to figure it out.
More than anything, Park getting DFA'd confirms the Twins will begin the season with Joe Mauer and Kennys Vargas sharing time at first base and designated hitter. Mauer is Mauer, and while he's no longer the hitter he was earlier in the his career, he is still the club's highest-paid player and franchise cornerstone.
Vargas, meanwhile, has spent the last few seasons bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and MLB. He had a solid 2016 big league cameo, hitting .230/.333/.500 (123 OPS+) with 10 home runs in 177 plate appearances. It's basically now or never for him and the Twins. Vargas is 26 and it's time for him to establish himself in the show, and it appears Minnesota will give him that chance in 2017.
As for Park, he's still going to get paid his $2.75 million salary in 2017, only he'll collect it in Triple-A rather than MLB. He is off the 40-man roster, which means he loses some neat perks (licensing money, etc.), but what can you do? The DFA means Park has to earn his way back on the 40-man roster and give the Twins some return on their investment.
In this case, the DFA does not automatically mean Park's time with the Twins is over. This could only be a bump in the road.